Newsmakers, October 12, 2017

Air Date:
Heard On Newsmakers
Alan Eber, Mary Schumaker, Kayha Fox and Jeni Mitchell
Alan Eber, Mary Schumaker, Kayha Fox and Jeni Mitchell Hope Kirwan/WPR

Habitat for Humanity-La Crosse Area is marking 25 years of building homes this week.

In those 25 years, the nonprofit has built 42 homes and is working to complete four more this year. Most of the homes have been built in the city of La Crosse, but homes also have been constructed in Trempealeau and Vernon counties in Wisconsin and Houston County in Minnesota.

Executive Director Kahya Fox said the La Crosse chapter formed when people concerned about affordable housing marched across the city to draw attention to the issue.

“The very first days of Habitat for Humanity (in La Crosse) were just a bunch of volunteers. There was no paid staff, they put together a board, they put together sub-committees and they started tackling the issue of affordable housing,” she said. “And they put together money within the first year to build a home.”

People who qualify to move in to a Habitat home are judged on three criteria. The ability to pay for the home based on a 30-year mortgage at zero percent. They have to be in need of a home, coming from substandard housing. And they must be willing to put in 350 hours of “sweat equity” as a volunteer to build their home.

Habitat homeowner Mary Schumaker of La Crosse checked all of those boxes. She helped build her family’s home in 2015.

“Before I got involved in Habitat, I was renting a home. I honestly never had looked into being able to purchase my own home. I just didn’t feel like I was there yet,” Schumaker said. “Habitat helped me. As part of their home ownership process you do credit counseling. They go over your whole financial situation. They let you know if you can afford to be a homeowner.”

Habitat in La Crosse has expanded its original mission and now operates a retail store selling used building materials. It also started a program that salvages materials to be reused in home remodels. The program has kept 350 tons of material out of La Crosse County’s landfill. The organization also started The Critical Home Repair Program to help low income residents make necessary home repairs.

Habitat La Crosse Board of Directors President Alan Eber said he expects Habitat to continue growing in the La Crosse area.

“We average about 1.6 houses that we build or families that we provide homes to a year,” he said. “We’re really looking at jumping that up to maybe six homes a year. Can we get there in a few years?”

The La Crosse affiliate is part of the international Habitat for Humanity that formed in 1976.

Slideshow: 25 Years Of Habitat For Humanity In The La Crosse Area

Episode Credits

  • Hope Kirwan Host
  • John Davis Producer
  • Kahya Fox Guest
  • Alan Eber Guest
  • Mary Schumaker Guest
  • Jeni Mitchell Guest

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